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The Dartmouth
June 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Hood Museum encourages students to take ownership of their space

Museum staff offer a preview of fall programming and exhibitions, sharing a variety of ways for new and returning students to get involved.


Visitors tour “Form and Relation: Contemporary Native Ceramics,” currently on view through Jan. 2, 2022. 

This article is featured in the 2021 Freshman special issue.

After over a year of being closed to the public, the Hood Museum of Art is opening its doors once again — with a special welcome to the Class of 2025. This fall, the Hood has several new exhibitions and installations to share, ranging from paintings to pottery and covering a range of cultural backgrounds. There are a variety of ways for students to utilize the Hood throughout their time at the College, both inside and outside of the classroom. 

The Museum Club is one introduction to the space for anyone interested in learning the ways that museums operate. According to Hood director John Stomberg, the club is typically composed of 30 members who work on a variety of projects both within and outside of the Hood. 

Museum Collecting 101 — a non-credit course hosted once a week in either the winter or spring — offers students the opportunity to gain first-hand experience with the museum acquisitions process. Through this crash course, students learn about what goes into the process of acquiring pieces for museums and how to decide what pieces to buy, according to Stomberg. 

Students in the course take a weekend trip to New York City — fully funded by the Hood — to view some of the pieces that the Hood is looking to acquire. Afterwards, Stromberg said, the group returns to campus and argues over which piece to purchase. When a democratic decision is made, the Hood acquires the piece, giving students the chance to leave a lasting mark on Dartmouth through the Hood’s collection. 

“The credit line on the work of art that we buy says ‘Purchased by…’ and it’s a list of all of the students in the class,” Hood director John Stomberg said. “So we actually have the budget for this, and we actually buy a work of art.” 

The Hood also offers several internships, typically held by juniors and seniors. Some curatorial internships offer interns the opportunity to curate their own exhibition. There are also internships within the coin collection, programming and campus engagement segments of the museum. 

Abby Smith ’23 first got involved with the Hood through the Museum Club as a freshman, and her growing interest in art museums drew her to the Hood’s internship programs, under which she is now a curatorial intern. Even though her internship has been mostly remote, she goes to the museum several times a week and is making progress on her exhibition.

“Every museum intern does their own exhibition, and mine will be in the winter this year,” Smith said. “I’ve been working on picking my art pieces and writing labels and brochures, which has been really fun. That’s what I spend most of my time doing — and a lot, a lot of research, that’s what a lot of curatorial work is like.”

Hood campus engagement coordinator Isadora Italia encouraged students to reach out even if they have nothing more than an idea of something they are interested in.

“We love to collaborate with students and student groups to create unique in-gallery events and experiences,” Italia said. “If you have an idea or are part of a student group that wants to organize an event at the Hood Museum, please reach out and let us know!”

According to Curator of academic programming Amelia Kahl, the Hood works with over 30 different departments and academic programs to supplement classes. For example, some classes assign students to walk around the galleries, either in class or on their own time. Other classes bring students to the Bernstein Center for Object Study, where pieces can be pulled from storage for closer observation. 

The Hood boasts a collection of 65,000 objects, and only a handful of them are on display at any given point in time. Whether or not a student is in a class that uses the BCOS, they still have access to everything that is in storage. 

“If you’re an undergraduate and you’re interested in seeing something that’s not on view, you can send me an email, and we’ll find a time for you to see it,” Kahl said. “You all have access to that collection as Dartmouth students.”

Even if a student does not study art or art history, the Hood’s staff strongly encourages all students to come as casual viewers. The Hood Museum is free for students, and it is as much an academic resource as it is a place to study, relax and enjoy a day off.

“There are layers of academic practice embedded in museums, but one need not have that to enjoy the art,” Stomberg said. “Art isn’t about limitations — art is an invitation to think and feel.”

As an art history major, Smith uses the Hood’s resources quite frequently. However, she has also enjoyed exploring works in the collection that pertain to her other classes. 

“I have an [African and African American Studies] class where we had a presentation from the Hood Museum, and we got to look at art that was related to what we were learning,” Smith said. “It was a really interesting way to contextualize the historical aspects of what we were talking about [in class].”

The Hood staff emphasize that students do not need to be experts on art in order to engage with it. According to Stomberg, some pieces may be more complex than others, but most works have a label next to them offering more details on the piece; he encourages students to bring a friend and have a dialogue about the art as an introduction to the space. 

Exhibits on display this fall include “Form and Relation: Contemporary Native Ceramics,” which Stomberg explains “really defies expectations.” It includes conceptual art and video pieces centered around Native American ceramics, all of which challenge stereotypes about Native American art. 

Another is a video piece from Maori artist Shannon Te Ao entitled “My Life as a Tunnel.” The piece is centered around the relationships of two Maori men, and it discusses themes of Indigeneity, language and loss. Stomberg described the video as “beautiful in an evocative way.” 

Other exhibitions and pieces on display this fall include “A Legacy for Learning: The Jane and Raphael Bernstein Collection,” “Drawing Lines,” Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s “Trade Canoe: Forty Days and Forty Nights” and Thornton Dial’s “The Tiger Cat.”

Aside from exhibits, the Hood offers a wide range of public programs. Kahl explained that students and Upper Valley residents alike are invited to participate in these special events. 

“[There will be] a mix of artist talks, collaborative workshops, student talks, big lectures and small and intimate events” said Kahl. “We’re going to have a big lecture on traditional Japanese art with Melissa McCormick, who is a professor at Harvard, and we’re also going to have a big lecture with the contemporary artist Julie Mehretu.”

At the end of the day, both Stomberg and Kahl reminded students that the museum, at its core, belongs to students.

“The staff at the Hood works to take care of their museum,” said Stomberg. “We work to put their art on view. We work to keep their building open. We work with faculty to make their classes interesting. But this is an institution for students, and the students should feel absolute ownership of this place.”

To welcome students back, the Hood will have a reopening party on Sept. 18. The museum will be open Wednesday through Saturday this fall, and though masking and distancing rules are still in place, Hood staff do not anticipate an attendance limit. 

Jessica Sun Li

Jessica Sun Li '24 is a sociology major and English minor from the suburbs of Chicago. She was the 180th Directorate's arts editor, and her passion project is the "Dear Mirror" column. Outside of The Dartmouth, she is involved in the figure skating team and sociology research. She really wants to adopt a cat.